(4) Metapontion, Lucania (Italy) - AR stater, c. 330-300
B.C., 7.79 g. (inv. 91.009).
Obverse: Head of Demeter r., wearing wreath with barley ears and leaves, necklace, and
single-drop earring; in small letters below chin.
Reverse: Ear of barley; plough over leaf in r. field, below; upward at left: Metapontion abbreviated.
Provenance: Edward Gans, 1959.
Bibliography: A. Johnston, The Coinage of Metapontum, Part 3 (American Numismatic Society
Numismatic Notes and Monographs 164, New York 1990) 13-16.
Metapontion, located in a rich coastal plain on the Gulf of Taranto, became very prosperous through agriculture, and an ear of barley, probably its main agricultural product, is the consistent reverse type on its coins. The city became so wealthy through its agriculture that it dedicated a "golden harvest" in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (Strabo, Geography 6.264) that some have thought might have been golden sheaves of grain.
The pattern of types on the staters of Metapontion, with frequently changing heads on
the obverse and the unchanging city badge, barley, on the reverse, was established in the fifth century and continued until the end of Metapontion's coinage. In the second half of the fourth century, the head is usually that of Demeter or perhaps Persephone, either of whom is appropriate for her role in protecting crops and especially grain. The head with its wreath of grain was probably inspired by Euainetos' similar head of the nymph Arethusa on late fifth-century Syracusan coins (see no. 19).
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